Thursday, January 31, 2008

What We'd Like from Our Doctors

One of the most moving quotes I've found on the subject of what we'd like from our doctors was written by Anatole Broyard (he's the author of Intoxicated by My Illness and Other Writings on Life and Death) in an article in the New York Times Magazine, which was quoted by Bernard Lown, M.D., author of The Lost Art of Healing: Practicing Compassion in Medicine.

"I wouldn't demand a lot of my doctor's time. I just wish he would brood on my situation for perhaps five minutes, that he would give me his whole mind just once, be bonded with me for a brief space, survey my soul as well as my flesh to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way...Just as he orders blood tests and bone scans of my body, I'd like my doctor to scan me, to grope for my spirit as well as my prostate. Without some such recognition, I am nothing but my illness."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Work and Bipolar Disorder

Dear Bipolar Mom,
One of the primary difficulties of this illness is stabilizing it. Since I have so idea how "sick or well" your son is, it's difficult to know whether he's capable of working now or not. Perhaps the real goal needs to be finding a way for your son to to engage in activities that will make him feel better so that he will have a more positive attitude about recovery.

If he taught in Japan, then perhaps he's open to meditation. There is continuing evidence to support that meditation may have a huge impact on this illness as well as yoga. The two best sources I know about are the work that has been done by Jon Kabat-Zin on Mindfulness Meditation and Amy Weintraub's book on Yoga for Depression.

If he could begin participating in these activities, then perhaps his life view would change. I'm sure your son has a lot of terrific skills that he could use in jobs unrelated to teaching--if that's not what he wants to do any more. Also, since he must be fluent in Japanese, I'm sure there are freelance translation jobs as a way to work at home--in the short-term.

However, the key is feeling like you're capable of working. And the information on work seems to be geared to people who are interested in working in the mental health field rather than on people who are bright and capable and just can't figure out how to restructure their work lives. Still, I did a little research and the following is the best I could come up with.

I recently found a site, the National Empowerment Center, that I felt was uplifting. It was founded by Dr. Dan Fisher, a psychiatrist who has recovered from schizophrenia. Many of the recovery stories and the people involved in this organization seem to be living and working with bipolar disorder. It certainly would be worth an email or call to find out what they know about work-related assistance.

I also read about a program at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California. They have A-Vision Volunteer Service Program with the goal of helping people who suffer from a serious mental illness re-enter the workforce. It's a partnership between The Mental Health Association, the Vision Program, and Scripps Mercy Behavioral Health Center. Maybe they know of similar programs in your state.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has a page where they list resources--although I have no idea whether these are truly viable and helpful organizations or not.

The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation may have information. I just did a google search on them and don't know how helpful they will be.

I wish I could give you better advice. It's either unavailable or I just can't find it.


Susan Bernard

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bipolar Work

In response to a post I wrote last year, Work: A Bipolar Bummer, today I received the following comment. Perhaps, there are readers who know a lot more about how to accommodate work and bipolar disorder or what services are available for people with bipolar order than I do, and I'm hoping you'll respond. If you have any sites to recommend, please do. I'll try and find out more information, which I'll post on Tuesday.

"Thank you all so much for your comments and honesty. It is so good to know there are others dealing with the same questions we are. We are parents of a 36-year old bipolar son and are struggling with the question of how much can we expect from him and how much should we encourage, push or stand back in terms of work. Of course, he is the one who has to want to work, get the job, hold the job... but we would like to be appropriately supportive. He is very bright, but very resistant to work, telling us that his mental illness means he can't work and can't hold a job, while we are convinced that there is a place and a job for him, even with BP. We help with his rent and phone, but he has to become self-sufficient! He hasn't even worked long enough in the states (spent 4 years teaching in Japan) to get social security disability aid. Your comments have all been very helpful as we continue to try to think our way through this. Any suggestions, ideas, thoughts would be greatly appreciated. BTW, I've scanned the BP sites for several years and agree that they aren't very helpful on the subject of financial survival and job situations!"

Bipolar Mom

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Healing Quotes

"The I in illness is isolation, and the crucial letters in wellness are we._
~Author unknown, as quoted in Mimi Guarneri, The Heart Speaks: A Cardiologist Reveals the Secret Language of Healing

Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without ever having to go outdoors."
~Norman Cousins

"Happiness consists in activity. It is running steam, not a stagnant pool."
~Oliver Wendall Homes

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
~Henry David Thoreau

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope."
~Barbara Kingsolver

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another Bipolar Voice

On those days when we feel depressed, I think it's really important to remember the days when we felt well. A few days ago, Lynn left a comment on a post I wrote, Top 10 Reasons for Feeling Grateful, on May 25, 2007. I'd like to share her comment with you because I find it to be inspirational.

"I am grateful too...........
I was diagnosed with depression in 1991 and bipolar disorder in 1995. It took until 2005 for me to really feel like I have this illness under control. I would like to say I have beaten it but I do still take medication. This illness for me has been all about the universe trying to give me a wake up call that I needed to make some changes in my life. I stay healthy now by staying out of unhealthy relationships. I stay away from people that "bring me down." I put an end to my people pleasing ways. I do what I need to on a daily, weekly, monthy and yearly basis to be happy. Some of those things are talk about my recovery, I wrote and published a book about my recovery, I dance every week, I play games, I do puzzles. I work very hard at getting talks booked. I also do a motivational talk. I have goals and know how I am going to achieve them. I journal. I eat healthier foods, I exercise. Medication is only 25% of the recovery process. Working on yourself and your issues is the other 75%."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bipolar Wellness Priorities (11-15)

This is the third installment of where I would concentrate my energies and funds if I ran a Bipolar Wellness organization. If you have other ideas, suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear them.

11. Stigma. Obviously, it is a terrible stigma for people to be labeled “mentally ill” and this stigmatization precludes many people from seeking help. Let’s stop talking about the importance of destigmatizing this illness and reclassify it as a behavioral or neurological illness.

12. Suicide. Although we know that the majority of suicides committed in the United States each year are due to depression, we need to know why. We also need to know why bipolar depressives kill themselves in disproportionate numbers. Survivors and family members of suicide victims should be interviewed. The purpose would be to determine what treatment options and support services would reduce the rate of suicide.

13. Computerized Programs to Assist Treatment. All BIPS should have access to computerized moods charts so they can keep records of their moods, medications, and symptoms. Their doctors should keep computerized records of medication. We should research what computer-aided programs would aid treatment.

14. Full disclosure. There should be a law passed, which requires that all relationships between pharmaceutical companies and whomever they are funding—including psychiatrists, medical centers, medical professional associations, and consumer groups—must be fully disclosed.

15. Exceptional BIPS. There should be an international search to identify exceptional BIPS. A team of researchers should be sent to interview them to determine what treatment options they're utilizing and what ideas they have for achieving Bipolar Wellness for others. These interviews should be videotaped and shared on the Internet.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing to Heal

It's unusual that I post on the weekend and posting twice is still more unusual. Still, I feel compelled to do so because of a email exchange with my friend Howard from Mead on Manhattan and author of Lullabye, Memories, Madness, and Midnight Snacks (which I highly recommend). It was more of a philosophical discussion on why and how we write. I realized that I rarely have the opportunity to write about writing but my observations (stimulated by Howard's) may have application for other bloggers. I've decided to post an edited version of my side of the conversation (with a few additions).

I find that when I write out of anger rather than love, it makes me feel worse. Even the "angry" pieces about my mother's care or my siblings behavior were okay for me because the overriding theme was my love for my mother. Awhile ago, when I wrote about friends who had disappointed me, I felt better having done it because it was so heartfelt (for me) and seemed to release the sadness and disappointment I had been feeling.

In a way, I think that writing slice-of-life posts about the people we love is like writing prayers. We're expressing gratitude that these people are in our lives, that we can enjoy the pleasure of being with them, and that we notice and delight in the "small stuff" that makes life worth living.

For years, writing humorous pieces--when I was so sick--was my salvation. Although I was furious at the hit-and-miss nature of the treatment, the incompetence of doctors, and the shamelessness of charlatans promising "false cures," I found that poking fun at everything was the only way to made it bearable.

I realize that lately I seem to have lost my sense of humor and I finally understand how important it is to find it again. At first glance, perhaps the more whimsical posts don't seem to have as much value for people seeking information about bipolar disorder.

But, in a way, they are equally important as the most serious essays because they reflect our attitude about life. If we allow it to, this illness can rob us of our everything we hold dear. But humor and laughter can be a restorative. And just to prove my point, here are a few quotes you might enjoy.

"If all the medicine in the world were thrown into the sea, it would be bad for the fish and good for humanity."
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, writer, and professor of medicine, Harvard University

(If we substitute the word cancer for bipolar mood disorder, the following quote has great application.) "Laughter in and of itself cannot cure cancer nor prevent cancer, but laughter as part of the full range of positive emotions including hope, love, faith, strong will to live, determination and purpose, can be a significant and indispensable aspect of the total fight for recovery."
~Harold Benjamin

And finally, one of my favorite quotes about mental illness bears repeating:
"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans are suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you."
~Rita Mae Brown

Bipolar Wellness Priorities (6-10)

This is the second installment of where I'd focus my energies and funds if I established a Bipolar Wellness organization.

6. Additional Treatment Options. There is evidence to suggest that biofeedback, hypnosis, light therapy, exercise, mindfulness meditation, and yoga (among others) would be helpful adjunctive treatment options. These options should be tested and implemented, and provided free of charge as they are for many cancer survivors.

7. Stress Management. It has been known for some time that stress has a huge relationship to this illness. Every bipolar depressive should be tested to determine how well or poorly he or she responds to stress. There should be a wide array of free stress management classes provided for BIPS.

8. Work-Related Help. Unemployment is a big problem for BIPS. Again, this should be the subject of major research studies. Specifically what are the difficulties in finding work and keeping jobs? Do people who suffer from depression need to do exercise every day at work in order to release stress? Do they need more sunlight than they can get inside? Are they better off working on a freelance basis or owning their own businesses? What kind of help do they need in order to resolve their problems at work? What kind of support services do they need? Should the government help subsidize grants to enable them to return to school for retraining or further education?

9.Insurance parity. The lack of insurance parity for this illness in the United States, and undoubtedly elsewhere, is a travesty. Every single person with bipolar disorder should be given health insurance at the normal rate, independent of his or her treatment options. Their bills should be paid in a timely fashion. The services they require should be covered in their policies.

10. Therapy. Due to the influence of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, there is a trend away from therapy and towards medication. This is wrong! For years, researchers have known that the combination of therapy and medication (or possibly other treatments) is the most effective treatment. Therapy fees should not exceed insurance payments.Bipolar consumers should be surveyed to determine what they feel are the most effective kinds of therapy. Do they favor behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychoanalysis, or psychodynamic therapy?

What has been most effective for them? There should be discussions and research to determine the efficacy of providing alternative options, aside from face-to-face visits, for people who cannot drive to therapy sessions, who live in rural areas, or who work and cannot take time off.There should also be discussions and research to determine the qualifications for people who treat bipolar patients. Should there be a certification for people who specialize in bipolar disorder?

In addition to the standard medical school coursework, what knowledge-base would be most helpful to people who treat BIPS? What background should they have? What types of adjunctive therapy might be effective, including art therapy, movement therapy, writing therapy, drama therapy, cooking therapy, and play therapy, among others?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bipolar Wellness Priorities (1-5)

If I were the Bipolar Wellness Czar, I would concentrate my efforts and provide funding for the 20 priorities I am outlining in four posts. If some of these are already being pursued and I’m not aware of it, I’m delighted. If you have any comments or ideas of your own, I'd love to hear them.

1. Triggering Event. There needs to be more research on the initial event that triggers people’s first depressive episode. What caused it? Was it a result of the stress of “life events” or was it a traumatic event or series of events, like sexual abuse or domestic abuse? Did the BIP receive treatment? What kind? Was it effective? How would the BIP evaluate the treatment?

2. Personality tests. I am sure there is a plethora of tests that could provide valuable information about whether bipolar depressives have similar personality characteristics. What about our temperaments? Are there qualities we have that contribute to our illness? Are there coping skills we’re missing?

3. Physical Examination. Everyone who is diagnosed with bipolar depression should be given a complete physical to determine if there are any physical reasons for their illness. For example, if bipolar disorder causes an imbalance with the limbic system, adrenal glands, and endocrine system, what impact does this have on the illness? How can this information aid treatment?

4. Psychological Examination. Everyone who is diagnosed with bipolar depression should be given a complete psychological evaluation to determine whether they have an underlying pathology or are just depressed. The treatment should be individualized for each client.

5. Bipolar Depression. Even the lead investigators of the $16 million National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) study, Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder, concluded that, “The average person with bipolar disorder typically experiences major depressive episodes more than three times as frequently as symptoms of severe mood elevation or mania. Bipolar depression is difficult to treat, and its persistence and severity is associated with reduced ability to function in daily life.”

Since these conclusions are so obvious as to be ridiculous, and the NIMH is clearly incompetent when it comes to making progress on the treatment of bipolar disorder, I would suggest that a congressional committee comprised of BIPS and others review funding and treatment practices for bipolar disorder.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Depression Quotes

If this depressive epsiode goes on much longer--and if I choose to blog during it--I'm not sure when I'll have to take the word "wellness" out of the blog's title. But for the time are some of my favorite quotes on depression.

"How heavy the days are.
There is not a fire that can warm me,
not a sun to laugh with me.
Everything base.
Everything cold and merciless.
And even the beloved dear stars look desolately down."
~Hermann Hesse

"It isn't for the moment you are stuck that you need courage,
but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and security."
~Anne Morrow Lindberg

"The mystics call it
the 'dark night of the soul.'
In its milder forms
it is best described as a period of dryness.

It feels like the absence of God.
Prayers seems to mock one.
Our spirit becomes so lethargic and confused
that we are unable to pray at all."
~Tom Harpur
The Thinking Person's Guide to God

"Sadness flies
on the wings of the morning
and out of the heart of darkness
comes the light."
~Jean Giraudoux

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Depression Continues

These days, when I try to find guidance and hope, I keep on returning to Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak, among other books. Having experienced two lengthly depressive episodes, he provides more guidance to me than most others.

"Embracing the mystery of depression does not mean passivity or resignation. It means moving into a field of forces that seems alien but is in fact one's deepest self. It means waiting, watching, listening, suffering, and gathering whatever self-knowledge, no matter how difficult. One begins the slow walk back to health by choosing each day things that enliven one's selfhood and resisting things that do not."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bipolar Depression Blahs and Dreams

In a depressive episode, it's difficult to feel passionate about anything. But at the same time, I'm wondering where my passions have gone, and if they'll reappear? I used to say that if I had all the money in the world, I'd write books--which is what I was doing at the time. Now I wonder if writing was an escape as much as it was a passion. Was it the writing that kept me indoors or the illness? Perhaps I've spent so many years writing that maybe it's time to exercise a different side of my brain.

What I learned from my mother's dying days is that I could show love without using words. Maybe there's a better way for me to express my thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. Lately, I have had this tremendous need to pursue "crafts" like woodworking or weaving. Since there are no classes close by, today I signed up for photography, badminton, and music theory--anticipating that I'll be well in a few weeks.

I'd love to work (a few days a week or a few hours a day) but I'm sick so often that it's impossible. Today, I spent hours online looking at places where I can volunteer but Los Angeles is so big that I'd have to drive hours just to get there.

Lately, I have been longing for a small community where I could work on different tasks and engage in different activities--dependent upon my health. When I'm depressed, the jobs that appeal to me are repetitive tasks that I can do outdoors (gardening, weeding, trail maintenance, painting, sanding, things like that).

When I am well, I imagine myself playing music for seniors, writing (but maybe something other than books), shooting great photographs, working as a blacksmith (I kid you not), traveling throughout the country on a motor cycle, attending folk schools, playing competitive badminton once I learn how, learning how to kayak, planting a vegetable garden, playing in a garage band, and establishing Bipolar Healing Centers.

I guess that the most difficult aspect of being bipolar is rapid cycling from the blahs to the dreams and back again.

FYI...we're driving our son to college and won't be home until Monday. I'll resume posting on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Tonight, my husband and I talked about how difficult it was for me in therapy to disclose some of the horror I experienced in my depressive episodes. For some reason, it wasn't a part of my make-up to share the "bad stuff." But once I did, the response was so unhelpful and the lack of insight so appalling--that it made me feel worse.

It's also inconceivable that it took five therapists and one psychiatrist more than 25 years to diagnose this illness. I was depressed--although fully functional--during my entire undergraduate career. Once I began working, I experienced two semi-annual six week depressive episodes. For most of my life, I could still work during them but the pain and suffering took its toll.

I asked my husband how it could be that so many of the therapists I saw were so incompetent. While I had a difficult time expressing my feelings aloud, it would have been easy for me to write about them. I wonder why that isn't an option. And had any of these therapists ever asked me whether I was experiencing some of the classical symptoms of a depressive episode, the answer would have been crystal clear.

Anyway, I'm wondering if any of you have had better therapeutic relationships. It would be nice to think there are insightful people out there--who actually help people heal.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Situational Depression

In response to my post yesterday about rapid cycling, Marja suggested that perhaps I should have started back a bit more slowly. And it was a good recommendation. But what I realized last night was that my relapse was situational. At lunch, my son (who's starting the University of California at Berkeley next week; having been accepted for the spring semester), asked me how I decided upon my major and made subsequent career decisions.

As I was trying to explain what happened, I felt overwhelmed by sorrow (although I tried not to show it). As some of you know, I experienced my first depressive episode four weeks after I started Cal (the same school he's attending). And because I was a mid-semester graduate from high school (they did that in those days--at least in California), I began college in April (two quarters after the June graduation class had started). In those days, there was no freshman orientation for mid-semester students. With two quarters under their belts, it seemed like everyone else had made friends, shared common bonds, and learned to cope with common difficulties before my small class arrived.

While I begged my son (when he was accepted for January rather than September) to consider whether this was what he truly wanted (three other universities had accepted him in the fall), Cal was his first choice. In anticipation of a delayed start, we have set up some safeguards, visited the campus a few times, and he's got some people to talk with should he need help. They also have a welcome week.

But, still I am a nervous wreck (although I'm trying hard to mask it). As I send him forth, the horror of my first undiagnosed depression (which occurred 40 years ago) looms in the background. Although I thought I had made peace with it, it's clearly there--hidden beneath the surface and causing enormous emotional turmoil (which I'm working overtime to overcome) so that I can share his excitement and provide motherly support.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Side Effects of Medication

To my readers--I just got a comment on a post from last year on the Side Effects of Medication. I feel too lousy to answer and I've never done CBT. So, if anyone has advice, could you please respond? If you'd like to answer this in your own blog, feel free, and just list the link. Thanks.

Dear Thankful,

I may be a few months too late for you to see this, but I also was searching the internet for curly hair as a side effect of medication and found this website. I have mild OCD and was diagnosed with bipolar in late June 2007 after my first (and only, I hope!) manic episode. I have taken various medications since then. My hair didn't start getting curly until a couple of months ago, but has gotten very curly since then. Right now I am taking lithium, prozac (for OCD), lamictal, adderall and zanax (as needed). I just eat pills for breakfast (not really!). I have read that lithium can change the texture of your hair, but I also read that it normally goes from curly to straight. I asked my Dr. about this curly hair on my head and guess what he said...... "I've never heard of that happening before." In early 2002 I was prescribed Prozac for OCD and (what was thought to be) major depression. I vaguely remember my hair getting a little curlier, but(in hindsight) I was hypomanic (from Prozac). Life was perfect, so it was no big deal and I don't remember the details. I also don't remember it being this curly in any pictures from that time period. After my bipolar diagnosis, my Dr. tried a few other antidepressants before Prozac, b/c of the risk of mania. He has gradually increased my dose to 60 mg since then and it seems that my hair has gradually gotten curlier. I would be interested to hear which medications the lady that Thankful describes is/was taking. Maybe it is the interaction between two or more of these medications??

By the way, I have a question regarding therapy. I have read and believe that medication alone is not enough to effectively treat BP. I have been seeing a LCSW/RN for talk therapy every other week. It definately can't hurt, but I don't feel like it does any more for me than chatting with my family or a good friend. It provides temporary relief, but doesn't seem to provide "permanent" improvement. Plus it costs considerably more. I have recently read more about CBT and it sounds beneficial. I like my Dr., but he is mainly a pill pusher and has not provided much advice regarding effective types of therapy. Any and all advice is appreciated. Thank you!

Rapid Cycling

Rapid cycling sucks. When I awakened this morning, I was sure my depression had lifted once and for all. It felt like a piece of gauze had been unwrapped from my brain and all the joyful, loving, and happy cells that had been smothered and suffocated from lack of air were tingling with renewed energy as if trying to replenish themselves.

My lungs felt like they'd been released from sausage casings and I could breathe again without restriction. And the bindings on my heart were dissolving--allowing my veins and arteries to replenish my system with healthy fresh nutrients.

I had a very productive morning. Then I took my son to the doctor and out to lunch. By the time I returned home, I was right back in the abyss. What a horrible illness this is!

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Virulent Depression

I thought I was better last Wednesday but then this depression came back with full force and I spent the last five days holding on by my my finger nails. When I'm well, I've got all these clever little activities I do to remain well, but during a depressive episode, none of them work.

I played my Autoharp (music therapy) and the guitar. The Autoharp made me think of my mom and I sobbed. The guitar wasn't very satisfying because my skills aren't nearly as good. Since depression destroys my memory, I couldn't remember any of the new notes I was learning. I blew in an out on my harmonica but it didn't even make me smile.

I gardened or at least did a lot of yard maintenance (I think I removed every weed and leaf in our backyard and while it was important to remain outside (when it wasn't raining), it didn't improve my mood in the least. What it did provide was a focus to my day and a sense of completion.

I tried to research this illness online to see if there's anything new in treatment or medication. I didn't find a thing and, of course, that made me feel worse.

I reread the bipolar books in my library--which are always depressing. I wonder if any of these authors have truly experienced depression and have a clue about what they're writing. Marja, I do like your book (Roller Coaster) but praying just doesn't work for me when I'm ill. I prayed every day for six years when I was unbearably depressed (and so physically ill because of the medication that I truly thought I would die) and the silence was deafening. Now, I can only pray when I'm happy or for other people...but not for myself.

What works better--but not well enough--is writing essays in my mind. The sad stuff makes me feel worse. But I've created this imaginary character, Suki Schwartz, who's sometimes my Bipolar Angel and sometimes my Bipolar Wellness Warrior and I write the words from her that I need to hear. Or I fantasize that she's taking me on journeys to healthy places where I'll be "cured." Or I have her tell me what she likes about me, the good things I've done.

When my mom was very sick, I used to sit by her bed and tell her how much I loved her. I would read poetry she'd written and poetry and essays I'd written about her. I would tell her things about her that I admired...remind her of fun vacations...of wonderful things she'd done for others. I would chronicle the parts of her life that made her happy and tell her how proud I was to be her daughter. Many times, I just lay next to her on her bed and stroked her hair and kissed her face.

When I'm so sick I can barely stand it, I take an old Gerber's baby cap with Alex's picture in it (that he made in preschool 15 years ago) and I clutch it in my hand like an amulet. I silently repeat over and over, "Alex, I love you so much; I will never abandon you. I want to be here for all the wondrous things that will happen in your share your happiness and sorrow. I love you so. (Well, you get my drift.)

My friend Sydney wrote me daily and reminded me of my strengths, and told me why she loves me. She thoughtfully responded to a wide range of silly ideas (that never make sense when I'm well), and provided never-ending positive enforcement.

My aunt wrote and so did my friend Annie. And I appreciate your kind words. Since I can barely speak when I'm depressed, it's always nice to read words of random kindness. I didn't always respond but I want to thank each and every one of you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Mood Swing

Hope everyone had a happy New Year! I'm just coming out of a terrible depressive episode. It's was so disappointing since I'd been well for so long. I'm not yet sure what to do with this blog but while I make my mind up, I'll continue posting.

What truly bothers me is that when I begin the slide into the abyss, there's no place to go that's uplifting. I'd like to be with people but I can't sustain conversations with friends. And I don't know anyone, except Syd (from Bipolarity but she lives so very far away), who could be with me and realize that I can't talk, and my feelings change from one day to the next, and everything looks bleak until it doesn't.

And yet it would nice to have a support group, but the only ones I've found are so downbeat as to be really depressing. The idea of sitting in a room with people who feel worse than I do and hear their sad stories--is truly depressing.

In fact, I'm not interested in listening to people talk at all. I only feel better when I'm "doing" something. What I wanted to do was to go to a healing ranch for a few days. I wanted to be in a community of highly functioning BIPs (who sometimes have depressive episodes but are otherwise "normal") and do arts and crafts projects, play music, take care of animals, garden.

I didn't want to talk at all but I would have been willing to listen to someone who was uplifting. Mostly, I just wanted companionship in an outdoor work environment. I even checked out some working therapeutic farm communities (which have good reputations as far as I could tell). But, of course, I needed something closer to Los Angeles--and probably just for a quick hit.

The bottom line is that the Internet now has hundreds of resources and my impression is that most of them are run by charlatans. They're expensive. Many of them make unrealistic claims. The population they're seeking seems to have drug/alcohol problems in addition to bipolar disorder. Mostly, the people seem to be in terrible shape. In my case, misery doesn't love company.

So, maybe my real goal should be a true Bipolar Wellness Facility. It's seems a bit overwhelming and I'm not sure where to begin. But it's something to think about!